Knowing what you want is very different from knowing how to get it. We consider those who give little thought to how they will be successful in any endeavor to be less than serious about making actual progress. Intending to lose weight without planning a healthy diet and having an exercise schedule amounts to little more than a dream. Intending to manage money without a budget is self-defeating. Intending to complete a project without a project timeline is sure to fail. People who seriously intend to accomplish their goals plan to make progress toward them.
It should come as no surprise, then, that purposeful people of God plan to make spiritual progress. It is good to note the purpose of progress in the body of Christ as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:12. It is better to give thought to how we can plan to make our good intentions a reality. If Jesus provided leaders and teachers to His body “to equip the saints for the work of ministry,” (ESV) then any plan must begin with knowing what that should look like. What work should Christians be doing? How should they be doing it? Who can teach them how to do it? In what setting(s) should this teaching take place? These are the kinds of questions we must ask if we are to plan to make real progress.
If purposeful people plan to make progress, then plans must include a way of measuring progress. If, as Paul states in Ephesians 4:15, “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (ESV), then any plan for spiritual progress must include a way to measure growth. In order to measure growth, church leaders and teachers first must assess where Christians are. Only by identifying where body members are presently can those leaders and teachers know how to encourage members to make progress toward the next place they need to be in their development. Once church leaders and teachers have made those assessments, they must be willing to chart a course for Christians, complete with specific steps to take toward definable goals. What strengths and interests do Christians have? How does God want them to use their strengths? How can we help them develop and refine those strengths? How will we know when a Christian has been equipped to serve, teach, or lead? Who will monitor their development and notice whether they are or are not growing? These also are the kinds of questions we must ask if we are to plan to make real progress.
The sad reality is that far too many congregations set out with good intentions but no definable plan to accomplish their God-given goals. They lament the lack of growth in the church but resist attempts at implementing a plan to ensure it. Far too often, teachers have little, if any, knowledge of the work Christians should be doing and how to teach them to do it well. Far too often, church leaders have little, if any, specific knowledge of the strengths and interests of the Christians they lead and how to develop those Christians into servants, teachers, and leaders who strive for excellence. Far too often, then, churches make the mistake of confusing what they want with how to get it. If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must give serious thought to the latter.